Ask any college graduate from the past two years what the worst part of their college experience was, and most are likely to reference the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It honestly feels like I didn’t actually graduate,” laments Jeremy Pan (CAS’21), a Boston University alumnus who graduated this past May. This is his standard reply whenever he is asked about graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pan was part of the Class of 2021 who abruptly found themselves shepherded home in March 2020 when the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 should be characterized as a pandemic. For most of his junior year, Pan attended his classes virtually over the teleconference platform, Zoom, but remained optimistic that life would return back to normal by August, just in time for his senior year. However, Pan found himself returning to BU’s campus in the Fall, only to continue attending classes virtually.
“Coming back to campus for my last year felt nice, but it was also different,” Pan says while reflecting on his final year. “I didn’t get to see friends or study in my favorite places pre-COVID. I was able to take graduation pictures with many of my close friends and it did provide some closure, but definitely not what it could have been during normal times.”
Throughout his college career, Pan was constantly looking towards the future and making moves to ensure that when the time came, he would have no trouble finding a job. Yet, despite all his preparations, Pan was one of many who struggled to enter the job market once graduation rolled around.
“There were very little jobs at the peak of the pandemic, even during this past May, which made being hired a tough barrier to overcome. This was frustrating for me because I worked four years to find an internship or job that fits my future goals and to help me gain more experience to solidify my vision. But, due to limited capacity, rejection becomes a norm.”
In a “normal” year, most college students begin looking for jobs as early as the summer before their senior year to secure a position by May. However, this pandemic left many students frazzled and uncertain about how to proceed with the job-hunting process.
“There’s definitely a challenge to the process and it’s certainly not as easy as it has been in the past to find a job or internship,” Patrick Nelson, the Director for Career Services at Boston University’s College of Communications admits. “But finding a job or internship is challenging any time. It’s just really understanding how to leverage resources and how to build resources.” Nelson encourages graduates and soon-to-be graduates to focus on building relationships and networking with university alumni.
If there is one bright spot, it’s that no one has been left untouched by this pandemic. “The main way we try to comfort our students is by telling them that the good news is, it isn’t just you who can’t get a job,” said Nelson. “It’s not that you didn’t do enough during your time at BU, this is affecting everyone.”
While many graduates and upcoming graduates may be scared about entering the job market, Nelson tries to remind them to keep an optimistic outlook.
“Adapting is important,” Nelson says. “If the pandemic has taught us anything in terms of the job market, it’s that anything can happen at any given time. If students were able to come out of this time frame with some positive experiences on their resume, then they’ll be able to do anything throughout their career moving forward.”
Today, Pan works at a dermatology clinic where he helps doctors with various tasks such as rooming patients, scribing for the doctors and contacting insurance companies and pharmacies regarding medications.
“It is definitely a good experience, but not one that I would want to continue as I feel that I cannot contribute to the advancement of medicine,” Pan says. “I hope to find a clinical research job or another medical assistant job in a field that I am more interested in. Hopefully, after one or two gap years, I will be accepted into medical school.”
Danielle Daphne Ang, Staff Writer
Danielle Daphne Ang is an Australian writer and photographer based between Melbourne, Australia and Boston, USA. She is currently completing a double major in Journalism and Advertising at Boston University’s College of Communications. When she’s not writing or taking photos, you’ll probably find her somewhere outdoors enjoying the sunshine, hanging out with friends, or in the kitchen baking up a storm.